The Second Amendment is once again sparking fierce national debate, and for good reason. This past weekend, millions of demonstrators in dozens of cities took to the streets to demand strict gun reform following the tragedy of the Parkland, FL school shooting last month. Naturally, this has drawn the ire of Second Amendment protectionists groups, stoking the fires of hatred and division that already burn so bright in this country. For me, the marches highlighted an entirely different issue altogether. The history of gun control is the perfect case study for understanding the increasing cultural gap between White liberalism and America’s communities of color.
On a clear summer day in May of 1967, two dozen African American men and women marched on the California state capitol building in Sacramento, openly (and heavily) armed. The demonstrators were members of the Black Panther Party, armed with assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols, they walked into the capitol building in defiant expression of their Second Amendment rights. A pivotal, and often overlooked, aspect of the Civil Rights Movement was the struggle by communities of color to protect their Second Amendment rights at a time when the question of personal protection was far from hypothetical. An effort which was strongly opposed by the conservative government of California, as well as the US Federal government. Pressured by then Governor Ronald Reagan, the California state legislature passed the infamous Mulford Act of 1967, a prelude to the national Gun Control Act of 1968. The act, which was strongly supported by Gov. Reagan and the NRA, repealed Californians’ right to open carry and facilitated police harassment in communities of color. Even further, the march on the state capitol cemented the Black Panthers as public enemy number one during the late 60’s and early 70’s, most notably so during the Nixon Presidency.
The Black Power movement of the Panthers, and the pacifist movement of Dr. King, while sharing a common goal, could not have been more idealistically polarized. Dr. King and his followers represented an easily digestible view of African Americans; peaceful, educated, charismatic and charming. On the other hand, the Black Panthers represented America’s inner-city Black communities; angry, armed, and dangerous. Naturally, Dr. King’s movement merged seamlessly with the anti-war agenda of White liberalism. The two sides found common ground and formed a political allegiance that in many ways still defines the demographics and dynamic of the Democratic Party. In the decades since this unofficial allegiance began, Latino, Asian, and Middle-Eastern American communities have all found their way into this leftist partnership, further bolstering the voting power of the Democratic party. The problem, both then and now, is that the needs of communities of color often come secondary to the agenda of the progressive White movement.
Take for instance the staggering poverty, worsening health conditions, and poor education that plague Black and Latino communities, particularly in overwhelmingly “blue” inner-cities. While these issues continue to get worse, progressive pundits focus on buzz topics like identity politics and gun control, rather than addressing the real world needs of their Black and Brown constituents. Even worse, since the rise of Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialist movement, the primary goal of White liberalism is to dismantle the foundations of American Capitalism, ignorant to the fact that millions of immigrants come to America to take part in that system. As a result, minority communities find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to cosign to an increasingly liberal agenda. Unfortunately, the alternative for Black and Brown Americans is to support a political movement that aggressively seeks to push their communities further into the margins of society, or worse, out of the country entirely.
While I have no love for the bigoted and wrong-minded agenda of today’s Republican Party, and consider myself to be a progressive thinker, I find it increasingly difficult to support an extremist leftist philosophy to which I have never subscribed, and to which I believe the overwhelming majority of American minorities would not subscribe. The fact is that the loudest and most powerful voices coming from the American left have, and continue to be, those of White liberals who occupy positions of immense cultural and economic privilege, and for whom the consequences of most political decisions are minor. However, if not for the support of ethnic communities, those liberal voices would find themselves utterly powerless against a majority conservative opposition. This dynamic, then, becomes one of oppression if the voices of minority communities are muffled by a progressive movement that proclaims itself morally and intellectually qualified to act on behalf of communities of color.
Note: I feel the need to clarify that I am both a gun owner and a strong supporter of stricter gun control. While I wish to protect the second Amendment, I also hope that Congress will act on gun control and pass measures that will make tragedies like the one in Parkland, FL far less common. That said, it is not the call for gun control that prompted my decision to write this article, but rather the opinion of some liberals that private gun ownership is no longer necessary in modern society. This belief, in my opinion, is a symptom of a privileged and protected upbringing, one that does not reflect the experiences of America’s minority communities.